An all-new psychological thriller is out this week from author Nicole Williams, and I have a sneak peek for you.
The media had given him a name. Proper fear couldn’t be stricken into the masses without assigning an ominous moniker to a serial killer. Son of Sam, BTK, Green River Killer—give a mass murderer a name and you guaranteed your following would be tuned in to every article and report morning, noon, and night.
That was the name they’d bestowed upon this squelcher of thirty-three lives. The name would go down in history alongside the handful of other prolific serial killers in modern times. Except unlike the others who preyed upon the innocent, the Huntsman targeted those who preyed upon humanity’s most innocent. Once word had spread of his existence, his name muddied the thin line separating ridicule and respect.
Righteousness. Vindication. Justification.
All words attached to both the faceless killer and his kills.
The case circling the Huntsman had consumed the attention of the nation, including my own. My life orbited the investigation, and I had the dark shadows under my eyes and loss of appetite to prove it.
The Huntsman consumed me. I awoke to him. I fell asleep to him.
Everything in between centered around him, including my next scheduled appointment. The telltale buzz of the police precinct hit me the first step I took through the doors. This place was busier than the 405 at rush hour at any given time of day. The scent of old coffee, musk, and body odor permeated the precinct.
After waving at the receptionist stationed up front—too busy arguing with some frantic woman to notice me—I wove through the bullpen of desks to a familiar one tucked into the back corner.
“Sorry I’m late. Traffic,” I greeted, ceremoniously setting down the cardboard box in my hand, complete with a large coffee.
“Don’t worry about it, kid. I was catching up on paperwork anyway.” Ed hooked his foot beneath the empty chair at the desk beside him and pulled it in my direction. “You didn’t mention the reason for your visit, but I bet I don’t need to play twenty questions to figure it out.” His giant gray eyebrows pulled into his hairline.
“I bet you don’t either,” I replied as I took a seat in the procured chair.
“You know, your father’s been down here harassing me for a few weeks now with little to show for it.” Ed tipped his cup of coffee at me before taking a sip. “What makes you think I’m going to give you information I haven’t given him, someone I worked with for three decades?”
“One, because I’m nicer than him, and two”—I opened the cardboard lid, flourishing my hand at the contents inside—“I come bearing poppyseed muffins, your favorite, unlike the stereotypical baker’s dozen he shows up with.”
Ed chuckled that deep rumbling one of his, digging out a muffin. “Bringing doughnuts to cops. Pretty sure that’s a frowned upon typecast in these modern times.”
I shook my head when he offered me one.
“Good. More for me.” He winked, licking his fingers after removing the paper liner from the base of his muffin.
“So?” Placing my elbow on his desk, I rested my face in my hand and flashed an innocent smile. “Anything you might be able to share with an eager woman who’s like a daughter to you about the Skovil investigation?”
Ed grumbled under his breath before taking a respectable bite of his muffin. “You know this is an active investigation, right? Meaning we don’t tend to share information with outside parties.”
My smile stretched. “Like a daughter.”
He gave me a disparaging look as he popped another bite into his mouth. “Your old man could take notes from you on how to weasel information out of cantankerous old detectives.”
“In order for him to do that, I actually need to be successful in that endeavor.” My fingers rolled across my cheek as I waited.
Ed casually scanned the bullpen before leaning into his desk. “We talked to an eye witness who reported seeing the same car parked outside of his apartment a few nights in a row leading up to Skovil’s death.” Ed peeled the lid from his coffee and dunked a chunk of his muffin into it. “The witness said there only appeared to be one person inside, most likely a man, but couldn’t make out any particulars.”
I rolled my chair closer. “You think this could be our killer?”
“I think it’s a lead. I’m not too excited over it yet, but it’s the best one we’ve gotten so far.” Ed hit Ignore when a call came in on his phone. “The Phantom would be a more accurate name for this Huntsman character. A summer breeze leaves more evidence of its existence than this clown.”
“Any additional details on the car? Make, model, color?”
When he frowned at my continued fishing, I brought out the smile once more.
“Newer sedan, light in color, probably silver or white.” He grabbed another muffin, grumbling as he did. “You want a pen and paper so you can write it down?” he jested.
“That description matches only about a quarter of vehicles on the road today.”
“Which means we can rule out three quarters of the vehicles,” he said through a bite of muffin. “That is, if the person in that car is actually our guy, which is a big if.”
My nose wrinkled. “I suppose it would be too much to expect our phantom-like Huntsman to cruise around in a neon green Hummer.”
Ed huffed. “This guy probably doesn’t come packaged with fingerprints or standard DNA either.”
Relaxing into the chair, I pointed at him. “What’s that itch inside telling you? Who is this Huntsman?”
He laughed, shaking his head. “I think he or she is exactly the type of person you wouldn’t expect. That’s about the only thing I’m certain of at this point.” His arms crossed over his drum chest. “I’ll put cash money down that when and if this Huntsman is ever caught, your jaw is going to hit to floor in surprise same as the rest of us. Probably turn out to be a PTO mom who drives a minivan.”
I blinked at him. “A PTO mom?”
His shoulders moved beneath his short-sleeve dress shirt that was one size too small and two decades old. “Or some grandpa who plays pickleball three days a week at the Y.”
“I think it’s a stretch that some baby boomer or suburban housewife is responsible for the murders of thirty-three men most people would cross the road to avoid.”
He swirled his coffee around in the cup, chunks of muffin floating in it. “Maybe. Maybe not. Why don’t you go ahead and solve the case, then let me know so I can take all of the credit?”
My eyes rolled. “We both know that no matter who catches this guy, my father’s going to find some way to take the bulk of the credit.”
He laughed. “Some truths go without saying.”
“If you manage to dig up any more information on this car lead . . .”
He waved me away as I rose from my chair. “I think I know who might be interested in knowing, yeah.”
“We’re going to find this guy. You or us, we’ll get him.”
His eyes creased at the corners. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”
“Oh, no. Not you too.” My hand settled on my hip. “Don’t tell me you’ve got a fresh tattoo on your upper arm displaying the Huntsman’s mark.”
“You do this as many years as I have, kiddo, and you realize that even when your side or my side wins, it’s not a victory—not an actual one. Because there’s always some victim suffering behind that sentence, or future victims once that sentence comes to an end. No one wins in this game of crime we’re pawns in.”